Disarming Design from Palestine (DDFP) is an independent non-profit platform performing as a design label. We foster thought-provoking and disarming designs from Palestine. With a focus on artisanal products created in conscious and integrated ways, the items speak of the reality they are manufactured in. Often rooted in a story or incident encountered in day-to-day life across occupied Palestine, the designs perform as cultural objects and conversation starters in homes, exhibitions, symposia, academia, media and other places of learning. Based in Belgium, we resist the dehumanisation of Palestinians and center Palestinian voices to amplify them. How can design contribute to international solidarity and justice for the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination?
For us, a ‘disarming’ manner is an anti-hierarchical approach, defying dominant and oppressive power structures. ‘Disarming’ positions design as a cultural tool to oppose authority, and create knowledge with affection, desire and imagination. In the context of Palestine, ‘Disarming design’ is an approach to design that upholds Palestinian narratives in the face of the systematic oppression caused by the Israeli occupation.
Our platform puts forward designs with a presence and narrative that open our gaze, and stimulate critical thinking. It is a way to trigger reflective moments and open conversations that encounter the anchored realities the designs embody. With our collection of designs we seek to uncover meaningful connections and patterns that help us better understand our histories and imagine shared futures.
How are designs developed?
The first years we supported new designs during yearly workshops in Palestine, or, as we like to call them, ‘create-shops’. With local partners, we brought together diverse designers and craftspeople. Collaboratively, they developed contemporary designs based on existing manufacturing processes, with local resources and techniques. From there we took several designs in production. In addition we select existing products (like the Nabulsi soap) and welcome proposals by artists themselves (like the Heirloom seeds).
We aim to connect with craftspeople, providing work, agency, fair pay and networks; thus uphold the heritage of making. One of our levers is countering the marginalisation that artisans and designers suffer from, no matter how active they are, as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
How did we start?
DDFP started as a project in 2012 in collaboration with the International Academy of Art Palestine, the Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, and designer Annelys Devet, with the support of ICCO. Since 2015, we are registered in Belgium as a non-profit association, and work directly with Palestinian producers, designers and organisations.
With a local team, we ran a Palestinian non-profit company from 2015, based first in Ramallah, and then in Birzeit. There we established Hosh Jalsa, a lively community centre which buzzed for two years. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and we had to close the company, which was no longer financially viable. Since then we work in a decentralized manner and continue our activities with different Palestinian actors.
How are we organised?
We run the organisation from Belgium with a small committed team, collaborating with a broad network of friends and supporters from Palestine and beyond. The designs are regularly produced by an array of Palestinian craftspeople and designers, and shipped to Belgium, where we take care of the packaging, distribution and sales.
Today, the project is self-sustainable as our core structure allows to keep the overhead costs to a bare minimum; with no rental costs, generous volunteer work and occasional support by donations. Therefore we sell the designs with a minimal margin, and ensure that producers and designers are directly and fairly paid for their work. We remain flexible to changing insights and challenging conditions, and open to arising opportunities.
Who is behind the project?
We are a small Belgium based-team, some working one day per week and others on project-base. Our studio is based in Sint Pieters Leeuw, near Brussels.
Annelys Devet, coordinator & facilitator
Annelys is a designer and researcher, who initiated the project in 2012. She has been co-developing it since with a broad range of partners; organising and facilitating create-shops, connecting designers, visiting craftspeople and caring for logistics.
Omar Kashmiry, communication & marketing
Omar is an architect with a flair in storytelling, community building and event initiation. He expands and reinforces our network by promoting the designs, amplifying stories and developing masterclasses.
Natalia Lopez Lopez, warehouse & logistics
Natalia is a designer sensitive to materiality and precision. She is in charge of warehouse management, as well as customer support and further logistics.
Intern, research & support
Every year we work with different interns. In 2022 Maut Schoofs empowered us with the organisation structure. Maut studies Networkeconomy at Howest and focuses on socially engaged companies, aiming towards sustainable and ethical development.
Mohammed is a visual artist based in Gaza. He has coordinated the production and logistics there since 2015; connecting designers, artisans and resources often within extremely restrictive conditions.
Julia Mrad, storytelling & translation
Julia is a landscape designer and a bit of a bee. In 2021 they deployed storytelling and translation skills, as well as catalysing for collaborations and social encounters.
Elettra Bisogno, moving image
Elettra is a documentary maker, designer and activist. In 2021 she worked as an intern for DDFP, with a focus on editing product stories based on video’s by the artisans and designers — a talent that she now extends beyond the internship.
The board of the Belgian non-profit association currently consists of Annelys Devet, Hildegard Devuyst, Kurt Vanbelleghem and Yazan Iwidat.
Who constitutes our network?
We value collaboration and co-creation of knowledge, and therefore often join forces with people, collectives and initiatives with whom we share common creative and political grounds. For substantial social change, we believe in building other ways of exchanging, rather than reproducing behaviours and patterns that come from, and contribute to, oppression.
This project has been initiated in collaboration with Khaled Hourani and the International Academy of Arts Ramallah. From 2015 to 2020 Ghadeer Dajani managed the production and designs; developing prototypes into high quality designs with a growing knowledge and network of the best artisans in Palestine; her work has been immeasurable. Raed Hamouri ran the organisation in Birzeit from 2018 to 2020 and developed a lively program in our community centre Hosh Jalsa. He stood on the shoulders of Mohammad Saleh and Sami Khaldi who registered the organisation in Palestine in 2015, based upon the founding work of Hourani and Majd Abdel Hamid. Through their committed work the organisation and network has truly fostered.
This would not have been possible without the inspiring, constructive and generous input of Dr. Jean Calder, Abed Al Kittana, Hazem Alqaddi, Alia Alrosan, Qusai Alsaify, Tommaso Anceschi, Derk Byvanck, Callum Copley, Moniek Driesse, Suzanne Groothuis, Samah Hijawi, Wisam Hourani, Michael Jabareen, Francisca Khamis, Juliette Lizotte, Natalia Lopez Lopez, Rudy Luijters, Inês Marques, Julia Mrad, Manar Nakleh, Kathrine Nicolaisen, Teresa Palmieri, Ingrid Rollema, Majdal Sobeh, Joud Toamah, Petra Van Brabandt, Mirelle van Tulder, Mieke Zagt, Isabel Zoetbrood and many more who joined in making other futures possible.
On this website, you find the full collection of products that are in stock. at the Find us section on our website you can find the list of places that have a selection of our products in their shops.
Where does the money go?
The money goes to craftspeople, designers, as well as development and operation costs. Craftspeople and designers are (directly) paid for their labour and resources invested in producing the designs. Operation costs include shipping items from Palestine to our warehouse, packaging, promotion as well as a remuneration for our core team.
How do you get the products in Belgium?
Because of the occupation, shipping from Palestine is often tedious. Shipment is arranged on a case-to-case basis, often with the craftspeople getting in touch with a shipping company who carries out the transport operation. This does not take into account customs hindrances, payment delays, returned packages or lost ones.
How can I support?
Keep learning and talking about Palestine, join solidarity groups, spread the word of DDFP, purchase our designs, amplify the narratives, keep up with our events, tag us on social media, or support us by making a donation.
How can I join the summer schools?
For the moment, there are no summer schools or create-shops planned, but follow us on social media for immediate updates.
Available seeds at Disarming Design from Palestine: — Abu Samara (wheat) — Bamyeh / Okra (ladies’ fingers) — Molokhia (Jute Mallow) — Sabanikh (spinach) — Yakteen (gourd) — Zinnia Sabella (flower, edible petals) — Bitinjan (Eggplant) — Kusa
On top of the political violence, Palestinian farmers also face the dangers of agribusiness with its corporate seed production and land dominance. But many of these farmers are the heroes who have been safeguarding the precious seeds, and the knowledge that these carry. Palestinian Heirloom seed varieties are under threat; many have gone extinct. These seeds have been passed down to us over the centuries, and carry in their genes the stories and the spirits of Palestinian indigenous ancestors. Aside from their cultural significance, these seeds carry options for our future survival as we face climate change and the erosion of agro-biodiversity worldwide. As such, it is urgent that we save heirloom seeds, and propagate them.
Founded by Vivien Sansour, the Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library project seeks to preserve and promote heritage and threatened seed varieties, traditional Palestinian farming practices, and the cultural stories and identities associated with them. Based in the Village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site outside Bethlehem, the library also serves as space for collaborations with artists, poets, writers, journalists, and other members to showcase and promote their talents and work. Working closely with farmers, the Library has identified key seed varieties and crops threatened with extinction, and provides opportunities to inspire local farmers and community members to actively preserve their bio-culture and recuperate their local landscape.
The library has also launched a global platform for conversations about bio-cultural heritage. Its Traveling Kitchen is a mobile venue for social engagement in different communities, promoting cultural preservation through food choices.
Established 2014, Bethlehem, Palestine
Learn more about the Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library and the work of Vivien Sansour on this website.
Vivien Sansour (Palestine) is a believer in the magic of the simple things in life. This magic represented in her work where seeds and soil are brought to life through her practice as a conservationist and writer. Vivien feels at home in the fields where farmers plant their seeds and share their stories. In her practice, Vivien combines the work of conservation with the sensory world of image and sound. She works with farmers around the world to find and reintroduce threatened crop varieties, and collects stories to assert the ownership of seeds by communities and not companies.
Vivien was born in Palestine and grew up in Bethlehem. She does not live in one particular place as her work takes her to different communities around the world – from Palestine, California, Central America and the Caribbean. She is the founder of The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library and the Traveling Kitchen project, both initiatives aim to bring seed heritage back to the dinner table so we can, “eat our history rather than store it away as a relic of the past”.